The BB King Blues Band – The Soul of the King | Album Review

The BB King Blues Band – The Soul of the King

Ruf Records

13 tracks

BB KIng’s band has assembled a host of stars to help them pay tribute to the King of the Blues. This is not one of those all star albums that falls flat on it’s face where the guests go through the motions; here we have assembled a cast of people who pay a wonderful homage to The King along with his fantastic band.

“Irene Irene” features the stinging guitar of Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Russel Jackson on vocals, a great start to a great record and an original soung to boot. Shepherd is on fire in this superb slow blues. Kenny Neal takes the lead on vocals and guitar on the King’s “Sweet Little Angel.” Neal gives a gutsy performance with well done vocals and guitar that hearkens to BB’s sound. Diunna Greenleaf on vocals and Eric Demmer on alto sax get to help the cause on “There Must Be A Better World Somewhere,” a song BB loved that Doc Pomus and Doctor John penned. Demmer’s horn is stellar and Diunna is ever so soulful and great here (as she always is). Mary Griffin and Taj Mahal share vocals and guitar  and Demmer returns on alto for “Paying The Cost To Be Boss.” Acoustic guitar gives the tune something new and Griffin blows us away on vocals and Taj adds grit and determination.  Taj and Mary give us a wonderful duet as the band blazes in support. Demmer’s solo is again something to savor over and over.

“Low Down” is an original tune and begins with some great trumpet work by Lamar Boulet. Jackson nails the vocals and tuba by Kirk Joseph with the trumpet give this a nice NOLA feel. Demmer returns again for “She’s The One;” he has made me a convert to the alto sax at this point.  I always seem to prefer the sound of the tenor sax but Demmer has a sound that makes the high toned sax feel deep and sublime.  He also gets the lead vocals here and does a fine job on this original. “Taking Care Of Business” is a funky cut  written for this album and once again features Jackson on vocals, Demmer on tenor, guitar solo by Wilbert Crosby and James Bolden and John Del Toro Richardson backing the vocals. The guitar is amazing and the sax is too. The band lays out a superb groove and the vocals are great as is the organ in support.  Greenleaf backs up Jackson on “Becoming The Blues,” starts as a nice slow blues. Kenny Neal gets to add harp and Crosby returns on the guitar solo on this song that Jackson wrote.  It’s a great down home song that breaks out a bit as things pick up and get a little more emotional. Jackson wrote this song. “Hey There Pretty Woman” has James “Boogaloo” Bolden on vocals for this one that he wrote.  He sings with a cool, deep baritone voice and Demmer gives us another pretty solo on sax.

Bolden again sings and co-wrote with Demmer “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow,” another cool swinging blues. Darrel Lavigne gives us a  sweet piano solo and horns blaze again. Joe Louis Walker is featured on vocals and guitar on a song he co-wrote entitled “Regal Blues (A Tribute To The King).”  He plays some thoughtful and poignant guitar and sings with gusto as the band comes out in full support . Walker gives us his take on King’s Lucille sound and does a fine tribute. Bolden returns for his “Pocket Full Of Money,” once again showcasing his deep and soulful voice. Lamar Boulet offers a sweet and sublime trumpet solo on this one. The final song is the King’s greatest and most well known hit, “The Thrill Is Gone.” Michael Lee gets the lead vocals and guitar solo here and does a fantastic and emotional job as he and the band played one of the blues world’s top hits with a fresh and sweet sound.

BB’s band is comprised of James “Boogaloo” Bolden on trumpet and vocals and leading the band as he has done for years, Eric Demmer on lead sax, Russell Jackson on lead vocals and bass, Walter King on sax, Herman Jackson on drums, Darrell Lavigne on keys, Lamar Boulet on trumpet, Wilbert Crosby on guitar, Brandon Jackson on drums and Raymond Harris on trombone.  These guys have been stellar backing BB and now on their own get to showcase even more of their skills.  They brought in a set of outstanding guests who worked hard to give us a wonderful tribute to BB King.

They do a great job and this is certainly a fine album of songs BB loved and in tribute to him.  I think this is well worth a listen as any blues fan will find something here to savor.  The new songs are ones BB would have embraced and played with his wonderful approach to music.  He is surely missed but we see a lot of love and admiration in this fine set of a baker’s dozen of original and cover songs!

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